A FAMOUS connoisseur, charismatic teacher and voracious collector of Indian and Islamic art, Stuart Cary Welch died three years ago, aged 80. This week, as 164 lots from his Islamic collection were auctioned at Sotheby’s, London was crackling with talk of this American patrician and his fabled eye.
Though many pieces attracted interest, the keenest attention was paid to a painting (shown on display) from the Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp. This luxurious 16th-century book, with lyrical calligraphy on gold-spattered pages, contains 258 painted miniatures illustrating an 11th-century Persian epic poem by Ferdowsi. “It is probably the greatest illustrated manuscript ever produced,” claims Michael Brand, an adviser to the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Mr Brand was Welch’s student at Harvard, as were Sheila Canby, head of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum, and Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art.